When Jhina Alvarado-Morse heard about a spate of attacks on Asian American seniors, she took action. The 49-year-old San Francisco artist, high school teacher and mother of two ordered 200 whistles, planning to distribute them to older adults—along with instructions to call for help if they felt frightened.
She posted her plan to a local mom's group online. Within a week, the idea snowballed into a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $13,000—enough to distribute nearly 15,000 whistles and counting.
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"I want my children to see that this is a regular thing. You help your community. You do what you can,” says Alvarado-Morse, who is Korean and Mexican American.
Across the United States, local communities are stepping up to support Asian American elders.
Those efforts come as the coronavirus pandemic has dealt multiple blows to older Asian Americans, threatening their health, forcing social distancing and isolation, and increasing financial pressures. It has also led to a spike in anti-Asian hate incidents, in part spurred by negative rhetoric around the origins of the pandemic, according to Stop AAPI hate, an organization that tracked 3,795 anti-Asian hate incidents between March 2020 and February 2021. In March, a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes overall had decreased by 7 percent in 2020, however hate crimes targeting Asian people increased by nearly 150 percent.
In one attack last month, for instance, 75-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie was punched in the eye while waiting to cross the street in San Francisco. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $1 million to pay for her medical expenses by press time. Xie's family has said they plan to donate the funds to fight anti-Asian racism.
The attacks have made Asian Americans such as Jesset Sidore feel like a target. “I'm constantly looking over my shoulder,” says Sidore, a 52-year-old leadership development coach in Oakland, California “I have to look around and be more thoughtful about where I am going."
But Sidore has turned her apprehension into action: She organized a march to combat Asian hate.